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Last year, Portland’s Bureau of Development Services set a goal: to reduce what was then a nearly 100-day wait time for new residential and commercial building permits.

Currently, the wait time for new construction is nearly 200 days.

But a new report from the auditor’s office says the city is making progress.

A task force on improving permits, set up last year, made a number of recommendations to the city council, including bringing all infrastructure offices under one manager.

This would reduce the number of offices that permit applicants have to interact with, says Terri Theisen, manager of permit enhancement strategy for the city.

“It’s an extremely complex system,” explains Theisen, “Clients have to interface, depending on the project, with up to seven different offices on a project and it’s not with the same person. They potentially interface with seven different people or multiple people within those seven different offices to see their project through this complicated process.

The city is also working on data sharing and performance metrics, new code and fee changes that can only be introduced at certain times of the year, more consistent requirements posted online, and lists of control for candidates.

Additionally, the Office of Developmental Services has introduced new 15-minute virtual appointments for candidates to meet with city staff and ask questions.

The Portland Bureau of Development Service website, where 15-minute appointments can be scheduled for clearance questions.


“If you have any questions about your permit, whether it’s a review of the zoning plan or how to submit invoices, you can schedule an appointment and go through it before you complete the paperwork,” says Maurice Rahming, president of O’Neill. Construction and Member of Permit Enhancement Working Group.

Theisen thinks it will take some time to really streamline the process, but he’s encouraged by the changes taking shape. “Now we have a city-wide effort… We’re working together as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” she says.

You can listen to the full interview with Theisen and Rahming by hitting the play arrow above.